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Hospital volunteers chalk up 63 years

Marilyn Alstrand figured 32 years was enough when she ended her volunteer career at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital Auxiliary in March.

“I’ve done volunteer work throughout my life,” Alstrand said. “I was inspired by my mother, who was a gray lady at Oak Knoll Hospital in Oakland for the veterans. When we lived in the Bay Area, I was a teacher’s aide and a Girl Scout leader.”

Alstrand will continue as a dues-paying, associate member of the auxiliary, but her departure adds to a growing hole.



“We do need more volunteers,” auxiliary President Marge Hayes said. “Some of our ladies are getting older and, due to health issues, are working fewer hours than they used to, or none.”

Auxiliary volunteers usually put in two shifts per month ranging from three to three and one-half hours. In 2006, volunteers worked 17,492 hours at SNMH – just under two years of free service, Hayes said.




They also participate in fundraisers, like candy sales, which last year brought in almost $58,000 for the hospital.

“It’s very fulfilling,” said Hayes, who also volunteers. “I recommend it to people to fill a void, whatever that may be,” like a recently deceased spouse. “People our age need to be busy. You can only read so many books and your mind needs to be stimulated.”

Volunteers will soon be needed for the new diagnostic imaging center at the hospital, where patients go for blood draws, x-rays and other images, Hayes said. They are also needed at the cancer center, the emergency room and the surgery recovery unit.

The volunteers are not asked to do skilled medical work. Instead, they help get things for the people who work there and comfort the patients with glasses of water or whatever they need.

Sometimes, patients and families, “just want to talk,” Hayes said. “You feel like you’ve done good and helped people, and the hospital staff is very, very appreciative.”

Years of service

When Alstrand and her husband moved here in 1975, she decided to keep her volunteer career going at Sierra Nevada.

“I volunteered in outpatient surgery,” Alstrand said. “It was a comforting support team. It’s very rewarding to be there and make people’s time less stressful. To give them a reassuring smile and someone to talk to is important.”

Dorothy McLennan still does regular volunteer shifts at the hospital in Grass Valley, although she’s a bit behind Alstrand with 31 years of service.

The former manager of the Glenbrook Basin Bank of America first volunteered in 1976. She has worked the front desk in the main lobby for the requisite 50 hours per year ever since, with a short period off to care for her aging mother.

“It’s the public contact I enjoy the most because I like people,” McLennan said. “I’ve always done that in my employment and I like to give back. This community’s been very good to me.”

At the front desk, “We’re an information center,” McLennan said. “You see people that are distressed and you try to address their needs the best you can and to help them find their loved one’s rooms.”

Now that both of the volunteers are reaching the end of their lengthy careers, they see the need for replacements.

“We need other volunteers,” McLennan said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie in the (auxiliary) organization and I’ve made a lot of friends through it.”

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To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.


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